August 27, 2020 – Last year at OC6, Facebook debuted its Horizon project, a social experience where users can explore, play and create with others in virtual reality (VR). Since then, the company has been testing Horizon with an early group of creators. Now, in the coming weeks, it will start to start to bring some people from the waitlist into Horizon’s invite-only beta.
Horizon allows users to explore a virtual universe of experiences designed and built by a collective community. Facebook states that everything that users can see in Horizon, including the Plaza and worlds created by its teams, has been built with the Horizon creation tools.
The company added that its mission with the platform is to “create meaningful connections between people and foster a strong sense of community for everyone who joins Horizon.” As a result, Facebook is looking at working with early adopters to evolve Horizon as it begins to grow its community. Eventually, Facebook envisions large spaces where many people can gather in Horizon. However, for now, up to eight people can share a space.
Once in Horizon, users can meet with friends or explore with new people, as well as join a Party to chat together. Featured worlds can be explored from the Horizon Plaza, but users will also be able to navigate to the menu, where they can search for published worlds by name and find new places to explore.
Over the past few months, Facebook has been working with community members to pilot its creation tools and start building worlds. “Walking through your world, and being proud of what you made, has been the most rewarding aspect,” said Horizon creator Clint Ferguson, who has built a jungle-themed adventure world where players search for a temple hidden deep within the jungle. “Easy collaborative building tools bring your ideas to life. Horizon lets you be as detailed and creative as your imagination will allow.”
As part of its new social VR experience, Facebook is introducing new features that make it easier for users to submit reports and address issues. One such feature is the inclusion of a personal “Safe Zone” that users can access from their wrist menu at any time while in Horizon. From there, users can mute, block or report people and content around them.
Additionally, and similar to the functionality that the company launched with Oculus Venues several years ago, Facebook has improved its system to provide assistance and address issues as they happen. If users mute, block or report someone, a trained safety specialist may remotely observe and record the situation to ensure user safety. This way, additional evidence can be submitted on a user’s behalf for Facebook moderators to review. Furthermore, these specialists will be able to temporarily ban someone from Horizon while the company reviews reports.
As part of this report submission process, Oculus headsets will capture the last few minutes of an experience in Horizon on a rolling basis. When a user submits a report, this captured information can also be included as evidence of what happened. The company states that this information is collected through a rolling buffer that’s processed locally on the user’s device and is overwritten over time. Furthermore, captured audio data from this rolling buffer is not stored on Facebook servers unless a report is submitted.
However, the company has added that it “may store other data about [a user’s] experience in Horizon in accordance with the Supplemental Beta Facebook Horizon Data Policy.”
With privacy being at the forefront of many users’ minds at the moment, what with the recent announcement that people will now have to log in to their Oculus devices using a Facebook account in order to enjoy full functionality, this snippet of information on storage of user data might still put some people off of throwing themselves into Facebook’s virtual reality world at first. However, the company is framing its data collection practises in this instance from the perspective of user safety.
The invite-only beta will be available on Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform in the US and Canada to start. More people will be invited over time, and those interested can add their name to the Horizon beta waitlist.
To view more experiences that beta users can try out today in Horizon, click here.
Image / video credit: Facebook / YouTube
About the author
Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he has been covering XR industry news for the past five years.